If any other citizen of the United States did what Donald Trump did on 16 July 2018 in the news conference with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, the FBI would arrest them the moment they returned to American soil.
Trump had been briefed just before leaving for Europe where he denied the truth of the briefing and the guilt of 12 Russians indicted for interfering with the 2016 American presidential election. He emphatically took the side of Russia and blithely dismissed the credibility of United States intelligence forces—all of them. Even when Putin had already admitted Russian interference.
The investigation of Russian interference on the 2016 election conducted by intelligence experts repeatedly found evidence of Russian interference and cooperation with his campaign in order to ensure the election of Donald Trump. More correctly, perhaps, to defeat Hillary Clinton at all costs. As Secretary of State Clinton sternly admonished Russia for human rights violations and countered their excuses with factual rebuttals.
Further, Trump made these assertions on foreign soil. He has refused to meet with the US intelligence agencies with whom he should have raised his objections. His comments denying the validity of the Justice Department’s indictment of 12 Russian government officials have been widely condemned in the United States as treason, and in Europe have been regarded with astonishment and alarm.
Trump repeatedly faulted the US investigation with absurd claims of investigative failure, for example, to obtain the server and the impossibility of proving anything without it. The “server” is not missing and is not a server. It is more like a large building full of servers, computers, and other things unnamable—all present and accounted for.
More confirmation of Levitsky and Ziblatt’s assessment that democracy in the United States is in peril as the result of Trump’s actions and decisions, and by the forces that led to his election, Trump repeatedly denies the validity of anyone who questions him.
From transcripts of the press conference:
PUTIN: Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia when the American elections, and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process.
REPORTER: Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S. Russia relationship back to normal. …When President Trump visited Moscow back then I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with [the] utmost respect. But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.